By Susannah Bothe
Capturing either fast-moving or often sleeping babies with our cameras can be a challenge. As a photographer specializing in all forms of family portraiture, I share some useful tips below on how to photograph your precious little ones. Topics discussed in this how-to include the following: set-up, lighting, composition, camera settings and organization.
1. The time of day is key for photographing babies. Every baby is different, but make sure he/she is well rested, well fed and also changed before you begin snapping away. Be aware of your baby’s mood. Don’t start a photo session when your baby is cranky or crying. While photographing a baby, one must be patient and wait for the right moments. Sleepy shots of the baby can be wonderful too.
2. Have toys that the baby enjoys at the ready. Toys of all sorts– favorites stuffed animals, dolls, and balls– are a great diversion and can also add a nice element to the photo.
3. Choose baby clothing without too much busy pattern, which can be distracting in a photograph. This includes stripes, logos, flowers or any bold patterns. The simpler the better, which puts attention on the baby instead of the clothing.
4. Try to capture your incredibly cute baby in natural light, regardless if you are indoors or outdoors. Avoid using a flash whenever possible. (One exception is that low light or night photography will require a flash.) Natural light is soft and flattering, and it creates a more realistic look for skin in particular.
5. If indoors, where babies are often more comfortable and familiar, move the baby to where the light is best. Use window light to the light the baby’s face. Open up shades and curtains to illuminate the room.
6. Experiment with the light.
7. If you’re photographing outside, the best time of day is morning or late afternoon. Avoid photographing midday, when the sun can be too intense.
8. Most of us shoot straight on, but consider photographing at different angles, as well as from up high and down low. Getting down at his/her level can create some great photos. It’s always interesting to photograph at the baby’s eye-level, emphasizing his/her visual perspective.
9. Get in close.
10. Create a simple, clean, background for dramatically better portraits. Move furniture and toys out of the way. Again, this puts the focus on the baby, rather than the setting or objects.
11. Put your camera on the portrait setting or if using a manual SLR, set camera on a wide aperture setting.
12. Because babies move quickly, set your camera on ‘continuous shooting mode’ which is also called ‘burst mode’ or ‘drive mode.’ This will enable you to get a series of shots per second.
13. You can’t get the ‘perfect image’ in just a few shots– you have to take a lot of photos, rolling with the baby’s ups and downs. And babies squirm quite a bit, which makes for some out of focus images. Once you’ve taken these dozens of photos, edit down. Simplify. There is no need to keep pictures when the image is blurry or the baby’s eyes are closed (unless it’s a sleeping shot).
14. Don’t leave all the images on your desktop. Instead, print and frame images and put them on your wall. Make albums.
15. Finally, document milestones (birthdays, holidays) and have fun! Taking pictures of your baby is a good way to preserve memories of this special and brief stage in the baby’s life!
About the Author:
Susannah Bothe is a San Francisco Bay Area documentary photographer specializing in all forms of family portraiture and based in Mill Valley, California. Her past work for National Geographic photographer Ed Kashi, at Wired Magazine, and for the Argentimes newspaper in Buenos Aires have all given her a breadth experience within different niches of photography. Nonetheless, she continues to be drawn back to working with families and connecting with her young subjects. Visit her online at: www.susannahbothephoto.com.